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Weeks 4 & 5 of 52 Weekends to Remember

Week 4 took us to Swamphead Brewery in Gainesville where we attended the 3rd annual Wild & Scenic film festival presented by the Florida Trail Association. We had gotten reservations for Oleno State Park for one night and headed to the festival. It was a cold night but this year we were slightly more prepared for the evening that was predicted to be another cold one. We arrived at Oleno and hiked to the nature center and made it back in time to get ready to go to the festival. The festival consists of about 10 short adventure films that are generally quite exciting. The festival happens at a great brewery, appropriately named Swamphead (which happens to be Mike’s second fav brewery). After signing in we put our chairs down and got a cold beer and checked out the many vendor booths. It was a great night and great fun. We highly recommend if your in Florida the last weekend in January.

Week 5 took us to the cabin and we accidentally fell upon this location in the Twin Rivers State Forest. We headed down a long dirt road (glad we had the truck) to the very end which landed us at the Withlacoochee River. There were picnic tables there and I could see how one could boondock back there. We were there on a Sunday morning so no one else happened to be there but I imagine that it could be busy on other days for fishing, canoeing, possibly swimming and maybe camping.

I hope y’all enjoy weeks 4 & 5 in photos as much as we enjoyed taking them.

Travel on,

Hope

#52weekendstoremember; #travelphotography; #blogger; #sonya6000; #whatrwewaiting4

Swamphead and Oleno State Park
Twin Rivers State Forest

FOLLOWING THE BROWN SIGN- BABCOCK RANCH ECO TOURS

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On December 8, 2019 for Mike’s birthday this year, I decided to take him someplace different so we headed to Babcock Ranch Eco Tours at Babcock Ranch Preserve for a swamp buggy ride.  The ranch is very large, 67,618 acres in Charlotte County, which is managed in cooperation with the Florida Forest Service.  It was one of the single largest purchases of conservation land in Florida’s history.  It has many diverse habitats, including prairie, and swamps,  hardwood forests, etc. While we were there we saw, deer, wild pigs (including cute, little piglets) Florida cracker cows, regular cows, alligators by the billions and tons of birds, including turkeys.  There is hiking opportunities but I believe the best way to see and learn about the vast preserve is to take the Eco Tour.

HISTORY: It was and still is a working ranch since 1914 which was comprised of 91,361 acres.  The Ranch produced timber, cattle, crops and sod.  In 2006  most of the preserve was sold to the State and the remaining is a private residential community.  The ranch today is still privately run but owned by the State.

THE TOUR: When arriving you walk down a little path to the visitor center.  We were welcomed by friendly staff, who like our narrator on the tour was passionate about their work.  There is also plenty to see right there, including caged (my favorite way to see them) snakes, and while we were there we saw Santa Claus and he was holding an alligator and then one of the snakes, there is a little museum which actually was a prop from a movie that was filmed there. There is a beautiful gift shop which sells all kinds of souveniers including  local honey, books, trinkets,  and much more.  We even got our picture taken with Santa with no snakes or alligators.

The Eco Tour is a 90  minute narrated tour which takes you through four different eco systems, including, you guessed it a swamp, which at this time of year was dry, which I think made for better wild life viewing, but we may have to go back when wet just to see.  The swamp buggies are really buses.   Our guide, Karlie, was a wealth of knowledge and passionate about her work and told us the history of the ranch, pointed things out that we might have missed, answered any questions we might have had.   The wild animals came up to the bus, as they obviously knew the sound of the buses, they came running, and waddling over to the bus for their treats they knew she had, except for the alligators of course. 

I think the Cracker Cows were my favorite, we learned that they are only bred to keep the breed alive.  The plentiful amount of  alligators was amazing to see all while safely on the bus.    Living here in Florida for most of my life one would think that seeing things like alligators would get old but it never does.    After the tour we went to eat at the Gator Shack where we had some amazing BBQ. Fair warning the portions are super large.  There is a walking tour however, after eating we were so stuffed we had a hard time even thinking about walking so decided that for the next time.  

THE COST: $24.00 adult, $23.00 for seniors, children 3-12 $16.00, 2 and under free.

Reservations can be made online, however they may have room if you didn’t make any plans and happen to be close enough, so give them a call at 1/800-500-5583.

LOCATION: 8502 FL-31, Punta Gorda, FL.  Turn at the bright flags that say Eco Tour and BBQ.  Turn down the road and keep driving to the end, can’t miss it.  You will pass a ton of  solar fields (which is pretty amazing on it’s own) and culverts which house many animals as well.

I left out somethings because I want to leave a little mystery to encourage other’s to head over to Babcock Ranch Preserve Eco Tours and experience it themselves.

Get out and see what the real Florida has to offer…

Until next time, follow a brown sign somewhere cool,

Hope

whatrwewaiting4.com

#babcockranchecotours; #realflorida; #followthebrownsigns; #sonya6000

 

 

CAMPGROUND REVIEW- FORT DESOTO PARK- Home Sweet Home….Not So Much

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When: October 18-20, 2019

Where: Fort Desoto Park, Pinellas County, Florida

Who: We organized this trip 7 months ahead of time. The we are Mike, Eris, the lowrider camping hound, and I on one site, Joe and Caren (who couldn’t come) on another, Annette and pups on another site and Cheri on another site and friends had an additional 4 sites.

Weather was supposed to be crappy, which we sort of figured even when were making reservations as we were camping with Joe. It always rains when Joe is camping. However, he outdid himself this time with a tropical storm. Because of the storm people canceled and there were a lot of empty sites.

Why check this place out, let me start and tell you why we will never come here again. Let’s start with the check-in: Fort Desoto is a Pinellas County Park, where I grew up, and am still a resident for a little longer, I went to plenty of parties here, my favorite beach of all time, I even camped here before. Location is conveniently located less than 10 miles from my sticks n’ bricks. I have been a Pinellas County resident for most of my life, went to school here, got married here, raised my children, etc., I am sure you get the point, it’s the county that is my home. As County residents we are able to make reservations 7 months ahead of time. That is the only benefit we receive, no discounts, no early checkin and no late checkouts. Just the ability to make the reservations one month earlier. When we were planning the trip 7 months earlier I made reservations for Annette (who is formally of Pinellas County, born and raised) using my address. At the same time Mike made reservations for us using our address. Now keep in mind we had a total of 8-9 campsites reserved by friends of Chery and Joe. The only one who didn’t live in Pinellas was Annette. Also, there was no where on the website that stated that only one reservation per address is allowed nor did their crappy website pick up on the fact that two reservations were made from the same address for the same weekend. I understand this rule- actually I don’t understand why my husband and I cannot reserve two sites as they aren’t giving us anything extra and we are paying for two sites and if that is a rule then it should be stated somewhere. Anyhow, we show up and they gave us grief and that was when we were checking in. At one point I was ready to say that’s fine give us our money back and we will leave now, leaving them with two more empty sites, as a lot of people were canceling due to the impending weather and they can try and fill it.

Secondly, there is no alcohol consumption allowed in the park. Not even on your site and they encourage people to tattle on others. There is fat fine for those who are caught with alcohol $118.00 ish per drink. I don’t really care that much if I want a drink I can always drink it inside my camper. However, when you are paying $40.00 per night for a campsite you should be able to sit at your picnic table while eating and have an adult beverage.

Thirdly, after weathering out a tropical storm we went ahead with our plans of a pot luck dinner at Chery’s site, which compared to most of ours was the driest. We carried all our food down there (love my wagon) and Joe drove down as he had an extra tables and grill. Shortly, after eating we were sitting around in a circle and chatting and the ranger came over and said only two vehicles allowed, all three were all on the site and not an inch of any of them were in the road. Joe said ok he would move his back down to his site, ranger asked which site, he told him and that the only reason it was there was to transport the tables and such, instead of the ranger saying that’s fine just make sure it is moved by the end of the night he made him move it. One would think that would make the ranger move on but no, he was nosy and was trying to see if any of us had any alcohol. Keep in mind we aren’t young people average age was probably 45-50, we weren’t loud we were sitting around the, oh wait I was going to say fire pit, but that would be an extra fee, so just in a circle, which leads me to my fourth complaint the costs for lack services…

It was $40 ish dollars per night, not worth it to have to deal with the nasty, unwelcoming Park rangers, with their unbendable rules and to be nickeled to death. The only amenities they have are bathrooms with showers, picnic tables and grills on each site and dump.

Finally, my last complaint is the amount of pet sites. There are 236 sites only 78 are open to pets, leaving 158 sites for the pet less folks, hence the problem with getting a site. I don’t have as much of a problem with this, however, the pets are not allowed to even be walked beyond the pet area, again not very welcoming to say the least.

So reasons to go, the views, not so much in the campground as outside. There is a nice trail that will take you to the beach, which I may be partial are the best beaches. There is a fishing pier and a fort to explore. So biking, walking, fishing and exploring the the beach are the reasons. Oh and believe it or not it even has a dog beach.

I will keep my Ft. Desoto trips to day trips only.

That being said even with all the negatives it was still fun to camp with friends, we brought our propane fire pit, and made s’mores while standing under the awning in the rain, there was mud for the dogs to walk through, and had shared meals with others and made some new friends. However, the next trip I would suggest we hop over the Skyway and go to Little Manatee River State Park and rent as many sites as we want, where the rangers are pleasant and the hosts are as well.

Until next time, happy camping,

Hope

Whatrwewaiting4….

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CAMPGROUND REVIEW-TORREYA STATE PARK

Mike, Eris, the lowrider camping hound, and I went to Torreya State Park in Bristol, FL on August 31, 2019 through September 4, 2019.

There are many reasons to check out this place, one of which is the hiking, and the views. We have been there before to backpack and if one went there blindfolded when the blindfold was removed one would swear that they were dumped in North Carolina not north Florida. When we came in 2003 it was very different then this year. In 2003 we did the Torreya Challenge hiking trail which it was very challenging and very beautiful.

This year however it was very different. Only about 3 miles of the trails are left now after the 2018 Hurricane Michael destroyed the area. The best way to describe it was that Mother Nature picked up all the trees and just dropped them. Reminded me of a game of pick up sticks. The trails are slowly being rebuilt but not sure if they will be restored in my lifetime. There were signs at the entrances of what was once a trailhead saying to stay off the trails as they were destroyed when 155 mile per hour winds came through the park. This might be a good time to mention that this park is not on the coast it is about 80ish miles away. Hard to imagine being that far away from the coast and being hit with a category 5 hurricane. The surrounding neighborhoods were nearly destroyed. Most houses had a new roof, needed a new roof or were abandoned. I felt horrible for the residents, as it seems like all the help that did come went to the wealthier areas such as the beaches and this area was forgotten about.

But back to the campground review. What thankfully did remain and had minimal damage was the Gregory House. It is a mansion built by Jason Gregory, who was a prominent plantation planter in 1849. It stood across the Apalachicola River from where it is currently. The river served as a “highway” during the Civil War. However, after the war Mr Gregory moved away and the house had seen hard times. One of the daughters did move back to the home, restored it and lived there until her death. When the state park was created in the 1930’s the Neal Lumber Company donated the home to the park as a gesture of support for the park. It was taken apart and moved across the river to the park for reconstruction on the bluff where it remains today. The CCC carefully put it back together and they even used the original wood pegs instead of nails. There are tours given daily and it is well worth the little fee of $2.00 per person.

While we were there every morning I hiked down and then back up to the Gregory House to see the magnificent views, which were plentiful.

The park is named after the rare Torreya tree, which can only be found in north Florida, California and China.

The campground is very different from most of Florida’s state parks. It too is on a bluff with a deck with an awesome overlook. The sites (1-15) themselves are small and do not offer much privacy as they almost touch the neighbors, but it was good and so nice to explore the area. There is also a yurt and a cabin which can be rented. There is a bathhouse which has toilets and showers as well as a shower house. We did do the few trails that were open, but it was sad to see the damage that remained from the hurricane.

We explored Apalachiola National Forest, which I highly recommend. By the looks of it the forest faired better than their northern neighbors during Michael.

We will return sometime as there is still much to see. Hopefully for all the residents and future visitors things will get rebuilt soon.

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PHOTO HIKE-Brooker Creek Preserve -10/26/2019

My friend, Marci and I attended a photo hike at Brooker Creek Preserve. Our guides opened our eyes to look at the environment around us differently. We saw things we may have otherwise overlooked. I believe I can speak for both of us when I say we learned a lot about the park and about photographing nature.

Brooker Creek Preserve is located in Pinellas County and is owned by the County government and Southwest Florida Management District. It is 8700 acres and is the largest natural area in Pinellas County. Entrance to the preserve is open at 7:00 am consists primarily of forested wetlands and pine flat woods. Mike and I had hiked there previously on a couple of occasions however both of our hikes resembled swims more than hikes. This time what we hiked was dry but we were not able to go on all of the trails as there was a wildfire there not long ago so some of the trails were closed. So maybe next time. What we saw this time was pretty amazing.

Visitors can start their day at the Nature Center and get trail maps, hit the trails and be sure to return to the Nature Center to check out the exhibits and the gift shop. There are also guided hikes quite often. I highly suggest checking out the schedule. Leaving the Nature Center there are boardwalks and nature trails. While we were there, there was flowers in bloom and we saw some birds but next time we will try and get there as the gates are opening because that’s when the wildlife is there.

This park can be enjoyed by all ages. I highly recommend it for people with young children and for the old as well. So when in the area be sure to check it out.

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CAMPGROUND REVIEW-Little Manatee River State Park

We went for a quick weekend down to Little River State Park in Wimama, Florida.

We arrived on Friday August 16, 2019 and left on Sunday, August 18, 2019.

The attendees were Mike, Nick Eris, Jodie and I on site 20 and Steve, Rosie, Jax and Mia on site 2.

It was nice and close to home and easy to get to. We had a ton of rain prior to our arrival so everything was flooded. The river was too flooded to kayak on so we will save that for next time and the trails were too flooded to be hiked upon so we will save that for another time as well. Even though we couldn’t go hiking or kayaking we still had a nice time.

The campground has some nice size sites but ours was small. Glad we didn’t have anyone else cuz we were pretty squished. The bathroom was under construction so they had the portable ones with a showers. They were neat and tidy.

We have been here plenty of times to do the 6.5 mile stacked loop on the north side of the park, which have been called muck and roots previously. We didn’t even attempt to go there since the trails on the campground side were flooded we could only assume the other side was worse. The campground side also has 15 miles of equestrian and multi purpose trail that was mostly under water. There is equestrian camping here as well.

Normally this is one of the most pristine blackwater rivers in southwest Florida but since it was so swollen it was hard to see. We have also paddled this many years ago and had a great time.

Even though we could not use all of the park we still had a great time. Camping with family and friends is always great. We will return as it is super close to home and easy to get there and maybe next time we will be able to participate in all the park has to offer.

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FOLLOWING THE BROWN SIGNS AND CAMPGROUND REVIEW-Silver Springs State Park

This is going to be a combination of Following the Brown Signs and a campground review as they are one in the same. Let’s start with the

CAMPGROUND REVIEW:

The Who: Mike, Eris,the lowrider camping hound, Nick, Jodie and I went for a weekend of seeing the very first Florida attraction.

The Where: Silver Springs State Park, the campground entrance is located at 1425 NE 58th Avenue, Ocala, Florida.

The When: July 19-21, 2019

The Lowdown: We headed up on Friday afternoon. Not too far from the house so we were able to make it before the park closed. Always a positive thing. After setting up we went to El Toro Mexican Restaurant. The food was authentic and fabulous, it is on Silver Springs Blvd in Ocala. After dinner we headed back to the campground and walked around what I like to call a cracker village. Took the pups for a walk and went to bed. After a nice sleep we started our day with another walk and then to Silver Springs (the attraction). I will go into more details of all there is to offer in the following the brown signs segment. Just know that 2 days is not enough time to see all there is to see.

The Campground: The campground has 59 campsites, that can accommodate rigs up to 50 feet, with 50/30 amp service. There are some with full hook up but all have electric and water. There are two sections each with 2 loops. There are many pull through sites. Which is what we opted for. When making reservations I wasn’t sure if we would make it before dark so for the ease of pulling in, possibly in the dark, I opted for the pull through. Not sorry at all. We had a great site in with our living area facing the woods. There are also 10 beautiful cabins for those who don’t want to camp. Our Verizon and Nick’s AT&T worked flawlessly.

The Reasons to Go: There is so many reasons to go, which I will get into more details in the following the brown signs, but there is paddling, hiking, a museum, a spring, a nearby fort and who wouldn’t want to see the first Florida attraction.

Let’s get to the Following the Brown Sign:

This has been a natural landmark since the 1870’s.

History: Florida’s oldest attraction with glass bottom boats which showcase the crystal clear springs and underwater life. It is also the gateway to the Ocala National Forest. In 1971 it was designated s National Natural Landmark which offers a wealth of cultural and historical significance. This is shown through the displays above and below the water. Native Americans lived there and there is tangible evidence of their existence above and below the water. There is a dug our canoe that can be seen at the bottom of the river (Silver River). The Spanish (deSoto) visited the area and it is thought that was the first European to experience the park. There are a vast collection of natural habitats.

In 1985 the state bought 5000 acres of undeveloped land. In 1987 they turned it over to the Department of Rec and Parks and created Silver River State Park.

The Silver River Museum was the only thing developed in 1987 when the State acquired the property. In 1999 they built the ranger station, then the cabins and campground.

In 1993 the state purchased the headwaters Silver Springs and it was controlled by the previous owners. In 2013 the Florida Park Service acquired management of the headsprings area and at that time the name changed for the entire park from Silver River State Park to Silver Springs State Park.

About the park: The Park is split in two parts. The campground area, which has the many hiking trails and the Silver River Museum and the cracker village (a collection of old homes, school, store, church, etc.) and the Springs side, which houses the actual attraction of the glass bottom boats, a little museum, restaurant, ice cream shop, canoe/kayak rental, gift shop. The park is open 365 days a year, 8 am to sundown. The museum is open to the public on weekends and state holidays, 10 am to 4 pm. To get into the museum it is the usual state park entrance fee which at Silver Springs is $8.00 per carload. There is a $2.00 per person fee to get into the museum. On the spring side of the park, parking is free and entrance fee is $2.00 per person. However, if you are staying in the campground the entrance fee is free. The glassbottom boat ride is $11.00 per person for 30 minute ride (which we feel is long enough) they do offer a 90 minute ride as well. There are walkways where the monkeys are seen. The monkeys are known to throw poop so I was glad we did not see any. Kayaks can be rented. Since we did not get to rent the kayaks I will save that for another time. There were tons of movies made here.

On Sunday we went to the museum and then we headed over to Fort King which is down the road a bit just to check it out. It was interesting but not too much to write about.

There is a ton of history in the area and a ton to learn about.

We did not get to do everything the park has to offer and will return. The winter would be a much better time to go. I can see why the park is a favorite of many.

Till next time… Hope

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CAMPGROUND REVIEWS, FOLLOWING THE BROWN SIGN AND ALL BECAUSE OF YOUTUBE

Campground Reviews:  This section will be short and sweet, because the campgrounds weren’t what this trip was about.  There were two, but it was mostly a place to lay down our heads and sleep.  So let’s get started shall we?

Mike and I  left Wednesday, June 26 after work and headed to Ellaville “RV PARK”, I use that term very loosely because it was about 8 pull through sites, with no amenities  right on US 90 with full hookups and made for the perfect place for us to pull in, plug in and hit the sack and get a good nights sleep at 11:00 p.m., when we arrived.  We would have stayed at a Walmart but June, nearly July in Florida is not exactly conducive to getting a good night sleep without ac.  Ellaville is a ghost town on US 90 about 4 miles from our property and right next to the Suwannee River State Park, which we highly recommend.  One might ask why we didn’t stay there, short answer is we just wanted to sleep with ac for the night so this fit the bill perfectly and was only $20, which we put in an envelope and placed it in the electric outlet when we left.  It was super easy to pull in, pull out.  After we woke up we had breakfast and hit the road.  But before leaving we heard a loud crash, I thought it was ice cracking and Mike thought it sounded like glass breaking.  I will tell more about what that was later.  When we were ready, we started our journey westward to our target destination, Rainbow Plantation in Summerdale, Alabama.

Rainbow Plantation is an Escapees RV Park.  This is the first one we stayed at.  Price was reasonable and was recommended as one the of the places to stay by Kyle and Olivia, best known  as Drivin’ & Vibin’, which was the reason to go to Alabama to begin with for their reveal of the Airstream Argosy, which is beautiful, more on that later as well. Back to the review of the campground.  Each site has full hookup, which was a first for us, well the night before we had full hookup but that didn’t count since we didn’t even unhook from the truck.  Our site, number 46, was in the middle of the trees.  There was a fabulous looking pool, which we did not use, a clubhouse with activities, which we did not attend,  because we weren’t there for the campground, we had other intentions.  The campsites did not have picnic table nor a fire ring, (not that we needed a fire anyways it was a) too, too, too hot, b) we weren’t staying at the campground except to eat and sleep and c) it was way too wet to even get a fire started). We did  set up our carpet, chairs, and table, opened the awning and headed to LuLu’s.  Next time, we will plan on bringing bikes and use the pool.  It was a nice stay and wish it was longer.  That’s pretty much it on the campground review, on to the Following the Brown Signs…..

We only got to follow two brown signs on this trip.  The first one was  Falling Water’s State Park.  It is known as one of Florida’s hidden treasures, with a 73 foot waterfall.  However, it needs to rain a lot for there to be any water actually falling, it was a trinkle.  We have been here before when the girls were young and we had the same result, no water falling at the waterfall.  Oh well, maybe next time. I was also able to get my Florida State Park passport stamped.   While there we checked out the campground.  The campground is located on one of the highest hills in Florida.  It is 324 feet above sea level.  We almost needed to get oxygen for the journey, just kidding.  The campground was just ok, with smallish sites and a weird layout and  there are many other’s I want to stay at before staying there but it was good to check it out.  The park itself is very pretty with steep hills, which is surprising in Florida. To get to the waterfalls there are boardwalks to get you down to it. It was too hot for us to explore too much so we got in the truck and headed out of the park, if we didn’t have a destination to get to we might have gone for a swim. Heading out of the park our engine brake came on, which we didn’t even know it had.  So that was interested and reassuring.  So west we headed. The other brown sign and I am not even sure it is a brown sign but we will call it that happens on Friday at the Gulf State Park in Alabama.  More of that to come.  Back to journey as we head west.

After a longish ride we finally made it to our destination, it was near 3 p.m. which was perfect as the office was closed until that time even though our paperwork was on the bulletin board awaiting our arrival.  We set up camp and headed to LuLu’s, where Kyle was playing (not only are Olivia and Kyle talented YouTube creators they can also sing and have a band).  Since we like live music and are fans of these super talented young people we did what was natural and headed to LuLu’s, which is also perfect because Mike being the parrothead that he is, and this is Jimmy Buffett’s sister’s place, and it also helps they have beer.  We arrived there near 5 and the place was packed, and if we wanted a table we would have had a 3 hour 45 minute wait, luckily the bar is first come first serve and we could also order food there.  Our seats were perfect and overlooked the stage.  After a few songs Mike went down and introduced himself to Kyle and told him we were part of the “Vibe Tribe” and were in town for the reveal.  During the break Kyle cme up and sat with us for a bit, which was totally awesome.

We headed back to the campground (oh by the way traffic sucks there just as much as it does in St. Pete/Clearwater), the wind was picking up and there were some serious thunderstorms in the distance, and all we could think of how we were stupid to leave the awning out on the camper, which we knew better but it was like 0% chance of rain. We couldn’t get back fast enough and were hoping our awning was ok.  Which thankfully it was.  The rain came down like buckets and the wind was crazy.  When we pulled up Mike hit the fob on the door, from the truck, (one of our newest additions to the camper-keyless entry, oh yeah) and we headed in, pulled the awning in, we sat up for a bit (cell service sucked) and hit the hay.  In the middle of the night, the rain and wind were super crazy, at one point  I thought we were  on the boat.  I thought for sure when we got up in the morning the table and chairs would be scattered across the campground.  I am guessing the trees offered some sort of protection as all was good in the morning and the stuff was mostly dry.  This is the time I will fill you in on the loud crash we heard back in Ellaville, we think it was ice melting in the ac.  When we got up, the compressor wasn’t working well if at all. We figure the ac froze up, without our ladder there was no way to tell for sure.  I cooked breakfast outside so not to heat up the place and we ate at our little table.  Before leaving to do some touristy things we turned the ac off.

Our first touristy thing to do that day was to go to Buc-ee’s.  What is Buc-ee’s you ask? It is a huge and when say huge I mean HUGE or SUPER HUGE gas station.  Yes it is a gas station on steroids, with over 100 gas pumps  but only for private cars, campers and such.  Not sure if any of them have the ability for 18 wheelers to come in but this location did not.  It has a huge store with beef jerky, pastries, and sandwiches.  They have clothes and of course touristy like gifts as well. After our trip to Buc-ee’s we headed to Fairhope, which took us to  Warehouse Donuts.  We got a couple little sandwiches, a donut (Mike’s choice) and a cinnamon bun (my choice) to go.  Warehouse Donuts is a nice place with amazing food besides just donuts.

After Warehouse we headed to the beach, which may or may not be considered a brown sign, we will call it one just the same.  Gulf State Park, Alabama, which was another suggested location to camp at.  However, in retrospect we are content where we stayed because it was closer to where we wanted and needed to be.  Gulf State Park is one of the 4 best state parks in Alabama that is listed in our National Geo’s State Park Guide.  Anyway, as the name implies it is on the Gulf of Mexico with 2.5 miles of white-sand beach, it has boardwalks that connect the very large campground (496 sites), 20 cabins and 11 cottages to the beach. However, if you are staying in the campground there are bike paths that can take you there as well.  The campground is on the other side of the road, so the boardwalks make it a safe journey if you are going by bike or walking.  After paying our little entrance fee ($2.00) into the park we headed to the Nature Center (which is free), what we found weird was we drove straight through the campground, some of the sites are right on the road.  The campground is nice but the sites are sort of close to each other and being that it is on the beach in the open.  By the Nature Center there is a large pavilion where we ate our lunch that we purchased at Warehouse.  The cinnamon bun was amazing, which I of course shared with Mike (there was no way I could have eaten it by myself anyways).  Sitting under the pavilion was very pleasant.  The temperature was about 20 degrees cooler.  There is a huge laundry room and a campstore, with basic stuff and campground gifts.  We went to the Nature Center  which was cool it had the basic animals like snakes, turtles and some birds.  There is also a huge pool, which probably has a separate charge for, we didn’t check it out because we wanted to see the beach.  It was super hot so we opted to drive over instead of taking the long hike over.  When we arrived there were big heads to pay for parking.  There was a solar equipped building at the top of the parking lot and it had also another huge pavilion.  There were beautiful boardwalks to take us to the beach.  Which was very beautiful with the white sand.  We hung up out for a bit, waded in the water and headed back to the truck.  We decided to go check out the pier while we were there. The pier is the longest pier on the Gulf of Mexico.  Parking was free but when we got out to the pier there was a fee to head to the end.  We saw enough and it wasn’t close to sunset so we figured why pay  and we headed back to our campground.  We may come back there someday to camp but only if we plan on hanging out there for most of the time.

There are some trips that are centered around the campground but this was not one of them. The wind was picking up again and the rain had started by the time we got home.  We put the ac on and it worked flawlessly (maybe turning the temp up a little bit may have helped-still not sure).  We cooked dinner of tacos and thought we might head into Fairhope to go to the brewery.  Lucky for us we were finally able to get Google Maps to work and it said it was closed, so with nothing really to do we stayed at home.  This would have been a good evening to sit outside and enjoy the campground had it not been for the rain.

Saturday morning, we woke up to a nice cool camper, but to be on the safe side we turned the ac off prior to leaving.  Today was the big day, the reveal of the Argasy and the reason for our trip to begin with.  We headed down to Fairhope for Warehouse Donuts, this should not surprise anyone, and had a delicious breakfast of biscuits, I had chicken and Mike had some meat and eggs.  We then went to Fairhope Brewery where the morning program of the reveal was.  After meeting some very nice folks and hearing the presentations we headed to Big Daddy’s where the reveal was actually going to be. We are all at different stages of our journeys, but we are all heading in the same direction.  We had lunch and mingled, had a presentation from Dennis the CEO of  Battleborn Batteries and if were weren’t before we are now convinced lithium is the way to go, so before hitting the road we will be getting a couple if not four Battleborn lithium batteries.  After talking to people Mike wanted to upgrade our suspension components on the trailer (Moryde).  That is exactly what he is doing now as I write this.  Then we got the reveal we all got to go in and check out the Argosy. It is so beautiful and they did an amazing job. It is not something I would want to undertake ever.  After the reveal we had a little over an hour to kill before the live music back at the brewery.  A few of us headed to the Fairhope History Museum, oh wait this could be considered a third brown sign, so there were three brown signs afterall.

Fairhope History Museum is a free museum that explains the history of Fairhope and how it is the oldest single tax colony in the US.  What is the Fairhope single tax? It refers to an economic principle where the government taxes only land (rent), a single tax, no taxes on one’s labor/wages or capital.  The land was/is owned by a corporation and leased out  and a single tax was/is paid a/k/a rent.  Leases are for 99 years which is as secure as a deed for the lessee.  Major funding of the library, Museum, hospital, college  and other places are examples of the building projects provided because of the single tax, which while modified has survived.  The museum was interesting, it used to be the fire department, mayor’s office and the police department with it’s two cell jail.

After the museum we walked around Fairhope for a bit.  Fairhope is a quint southern town.  If we had time we would have walked to the pier but we will have to save that for the next time.  After a small tour  we headed back  to the brewery to listen to the band, have some good beer and just enjoy getting to know everyone else that was there for the reveal.  After the band was done playing they mingled with us and we ordered food from the food truck and were eating together. We hung out, got to know each other, exchanged numbers and are hopeful that we will see each other down the road again sometime soon. I looked around the table and brought it to Kyle and Olivia’s attention, that life long friends were made here today all because of YouTube.

It was a great long weekend and we hated to head back east but that is what we did on Sunday morning.  Soon our adventure won’t have to end with Monday morning’s alarm clock it will be the beginning, until then….

Hope to see you down the road sometime,  thanks for reading,

Hope

 

 

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FOLLOWING THE BROWN SIGNS…..#2 CORKSCREW SWAMP SANCTUARY

As promised here is number 2 of the following the brown sign….

Following another brown sign on Mother’s Day, May 12, 2019 was my Mother’s Day gift to me from my loving Husband and to my  bestest Mom, who is always up for an adventure.  This has been a place I have wanted to see ever since my old boss (circa 1999) told me all about it, yes finally after 20 years I finally got here.  They have events all year long, however, summer is upon us so the events will be slowing down until fall I imagine, or our perceived fall in Florida, even though it will be as hot as it was on Mother’s Day.  W.e will look at the calendar though and keep up with what is going on because they have things like night hikes, a night hike on the swamp will be amazing.

Corkscrew Swamp is a series of boardwalks located in the western part of the Everglades, even though we saw some hikes that are lead through the actual swamp, I don’t think I want to do that.  Corkscrew was established to protect the largest remaining stand of ancient bald cypress that are left in North America. During the 40’s and 50’s the cypress forests in Florida were being leveled for their timber, the National Audubon had protected the birds within Corkscrew back in 1912 and at that time realized that the forest must be saved.  In 1955 the first boardwalk  was constructed thanks to the National Audubon Society, who had accepted responsibility to manage the area.  When the area was acquired in 1954 it was impossible to access.  Today, visitors can enjoy the natural systems of the real Florida.

The location of this beautiful oasis is 375  Sanctuary Road, Naples Florida, their phone number is 239/348-9151.  The cost is adults ($14.00) (so worth it) children/student (6-18) $4.00 and children under 6 free, discounts for National Audubon Society members ($10.00) and Full-time college students ($6.00-must have id). The hours are 7 am to 5:30 p.m. every day,  the last admission to the boardwalk is one hour before closing time (4:30 p.m.).  We were warned about black/deer fly’s this time of year, we however did not encounter any or should I say they did not encounter us.

We arrived at 10:30 ish and went to the visitor’s center, which houses a gift shop, a cafeteria type restaurant, and a exhibits as well as movie.  As we were there to hit the trails/boardwalk we decided that we would do all of that when we returned.  The boardwalk is 2.25 mileish along the swamp.  It is so green and lush and most thankfully were tree covered and shady.  The boardwalk starts out on the prairie but as soon as we got across the prairie, the big, beautiful trees take over and it becomes a shady hike, still hot but at least it is shady.     Besides the old trees and plants the wildlife was amazing.  We saw  barred owls, (2), an otter (which sadly he was too quick to get a pic), wood stock (a young one), anhingas, lizards (bright green anole) a skink (too fast to get a good pic), assuming it is pig frog and a mamma gator and her 12 babies.  What I was happy I did not see was a pygmy rattlesnake.  The flowers were plentiful.  After the walk we headed back to the visitor’s center where we sat and watched the informative film and cooled down.  We had a great time and were told by my mommy that it was one of the best Mother’s Day she has had.

Bottomline, we will be back and we will be on the lookout for a special program like a night hike. I urge all visitor’s to Florida to come and see the real Florida and this is a great way to do it.

Hike on…. Hope

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Cary State Forest, Florida CAMPGROUND REVIEW

THE WHO:, Mike, me, Eris the lowrider camping hound, Nick, Jodie, Annette, Nora, Elsa and Sam, on two sites and the dogs outnumbered the humans as they usually do.

THE WHERE: Cary State Forest, Florida

THE WHEN: February 22-25, 2019

THE LOWDOWN: There are only 7 sites in this campground in this huge 13,385 acre forest, it is located in northeast Florida, near Jacksonville, there is hiking, biking, horseback riding, hunting and fishing.

THE CAMPGROUND: With only 7 sites in this huge forest there is plenty of room on and between the sites. Of the 7 sites, 6 have electric and water and one is primitive. Of the 6 that have electric and water only 5 of them can be reserved, leaving one as a walk-up/drive-up site.

When I say the sites are large, I mean super large. The each have concrete slab, picnic table, firepit. We had site #2 and Annette had site #3.

We went hiking, while the dogs were allowed on the trail, causing them (especially Eris the lowrider camping hound) to need baths when we returned. To say it was muddy in spots is an understatement.

There is a very nice bathhouse with two showers and a dump station conveniently located (not that we used it because we were in our tiny camper) at the beginning or end of the loop whichever way you look at it.

THE REASON TO GO: The peace and quiet that the woods have to offer is abundant here, even though there is an occasional train. While sitting at my campsite you can barely see Annette’s camper from here because of the distance. There are tall pines and palmetto scrub. The birds were singing and the smells of the pine forest cannot be beat. The hiking is plentiful and pretty, with boardwalks and some areas that have no boardwalks, hence the dogs getting dirty.

Weekend’s to Remember 10, 11 and 12-Falmouth Springs, Cypress Creek Preserve and Covid-1

So this post is being presented to you from the inside of my camper, while only working part-time, and doing some social distancing….I started to write about weekends 8 and 9, about our vacation in Savannah and then as we all know we were hit the realities of  Covid-19, Corona Virus, whichever one your prefer to refer to it as.  I am sure I can speak for everyone, it has turned everyone’s lives upside down.  I will get back to my post about Savannah shortly but for now I just wanted to do a quick update as to weekend’s numbered 10, (Falmouth Springs) 11 (Cypress Creek Preserve) and number 12, the first weekend we were home for the social distancing.

Weekend #11 found us at the cabin to work on the bathroom. On our way home we stopped by Falmouth Springs.  We took a beautiful walk down the boardwalk.  I believe the boardwalk is longer then the river.  It is a beautiful area and brings back fond memories as to when we were building the cabin and did not yet have a shower, we would work in the Florida heat and then on our way home would stop there and take a dip in the refreshing spring.  It is known as the shortest river in the world. The spring bubbles from an underground cave and travels the length of the river about 450 feet and disappears through an opening at the other end.  It is one of the many first magnitude springs with a daily water flow of about 65 million gallons.  We have been there before with high water, very high water and it flows backwards.  The air temps ares about 10 degrees cooler down on the boardwalks because it is like being in a pit, with limestone walls and beautiful green tree coverage.  I think it is one of the best local secrets around.

Weekend 11 found us boondocking at Cypress Creek Preserve, which is a 7400 acre piece of SWFWMD (South West Florida Water Management District) property located on the outskirts of Tampa.  This is a beautiful lush spot, with shade and sun.  Reservations can be made on the SWFWMD’s website, 60 days ahead of time.  It was the beginning of the social distancing request. So not sure really what was happening, we didn’t change our plans and we were very glad we didn’t.  We may have seen maybe 10 other people there the whole weekend and that was even including my mom and brother who came out to have dinner with us.  There is a combination gate at the entrance of the property, which you receive the gate code when your reservations are confirmed. There is a walk gate for anyone who just wants to hike.   After entering the property there is about a mile, dirt road, and my one advise is to take it super, super slowly, to the primitive campground, unless you don’t mind your belongings being moved everywhere but where they belong in your camper.  There are two camping areas, a primitive (which is the one we stayed at) and an equestrian.  Both can handle big rigs,  have a port-a-potty and a covered picnic table area, so if we had a few people there we could all hang at the picnic tables.  Each site has a picnic table and a fire ring.  I believe there are three campsites in each area.  We got up each morning and walked and then again in the evening after dinner.  It was so peaceful and nice not to be listening to the never ending drama that was unfolding in the “real” world.

The breweries were still open so we figured why not let’s find one.  We went to In the Loop Brewing in Land O’ Lakes, which has an awesome vibe,  with a great courtyard and view.  There was no social distancing happening there.  We brought Eris the Lowrider Camping Hound, as it was too hot to leave her behind, and upon arriving she was the hit of the courtyard by the little people that far outnumbered the big people.  The average age was 2, maybe 3.  It was jammed packed.  We stayed for one and headed back to our peaceful campground.

Everything changed the following week, the world ended as we knew it, and all Florida State Parks closed for camping, and shortly after SWFWMD followed suit.  Hopefully, our world will get back to some sort of normal or at least the new normal will become clearer and reservations will be able to be made once again.  We plan on returning, maybe in November after summer, which apparently started in Florida in March this year, and after the new normal becomes clear once again. We highly recommend this campground.  We have yet to be disappointed with any of the SWFWMD properties, so check them out when you get the chance.

Weekend #12 Covid-19, so this weekend found us at home questioning things like what would be next to close and would I be working on Monday and would the suppliers that Mike uses be open….it was a weekend of uncertainty.  The breweries and restaurants were already closed and by the time of this writing anything that is a non essential business is closed.  However, besides the breweries and restaurants all the other businesses, including the law business, are considered essential, so I have a job and Mike can do his work as well.  We are socially isolating to a point, for instance in my job there is me and a few other employees and no clients, everything is done via email,  and Mike’s job is mostly a two person operation.  So business as usual for us except for the point that no one is hiring now in my field so I am underemployed and I am afraid that until this is over as I won’t be able to get full-time work.  We only have 44 weeks before we hit the road so we plan on hanging on until then.  Hopefully things will return to somewhat normal soon.

So the fun and different thing we did last weekend was we went to a food truck. One might ask what’s so different about that? I would answer by saying it was in one of the neighbor’s yards.  Food trucks are showing up in neighbor’s yards around the neighborhood.  We have met some neighbors, (from a distance of course) that we would normally not have met previously. I have met more people these last few weeks then I have met the whole time I have lived here, which is a very long time (as in 44 years).  So if there can be a silver lining to this, people are unplugging, going outside for fresh air a change of scenery and meeting new neighbors.  The food truck was the Surly Mermaid.  It was delicious and we will be hosting them in our yard on April 1st.  So if anyone is around come on by and get some delicious food and maybe meet some neighbors (at a distance of course) and try out the new normal.

Weekend’s to Remember-Weeks 6 & 7

Hard to believe how quickly time flies.  This weekend we are going into weekend number 12 and I am finally sitting down to write about weeks 6 and 7.  It’s been a busy time for sure between working at our cabin and the house and not to mention the camper.

Weekend #6 took us to the State Fair, where I was part of the Photo Safari.  I entered 20 pictures into a contest that I had taken at the state fair. While I did not win I still had a great time.  We are not ones to go to the State Fair and do the rides and this year was no different. We went and saw the animals, the crafts and the exhibits.  One of the exhibits that was there was the Tampa Bay Ukulele Society,  which we did not know it even existed.  However, we enjoyed that the most. Fun group of people and great entertainment. They were willing to share and teach us.    I see ukulele lessons in our future.  Ukulele’s are small and can fit nicely in the camper. Mike won a beautiful ukulele, just in time for Valentine’s Day and it goes without saying that is what I received from him for Valentine’s Day.    Now we need to get him one as well so we can make some music while on the road.  I took a lot, when I say a lot of pictures, I mean 570 of them and narrowing it down was daunting. I totally enjoyed myself and seeing things through the cameras lens.  We arrived early and stayed until about dark. It was a long day and a lot of fun.  It dawned on us that more than likely that was our last Florida State Fair for a while as we will be hitting the road before next years.

Weekend #7 took us to Lettuce Lake as we were looking for someplace close to hike.  We went with our besties, Nancy, Mark and Nya.  We first started with a great breakfast at 18 Bagels and then headed to Lettuce Lake.  I have been there before, however I did not remember it being so beautiful.  It has a great nature center and beautiful boardwalks.  We saw alligators, and birds galore.  The views were spectacular and it was a photographer’s paradise.  One day I hope to get their early enough to get some great pics of the birds.

There is not much more to say about either weekend except if you haven’t been to the Florida State Fair, you should go as it is a lot of fun.  Also, if you are in the Tampa Bay area, check out Lettuce Lake, it will not disappoint.

I hope you enjoy the pics from both weekends.

#sonya6000; #floridastatefair; #lettucelakepark #hiking; #travelphotography; #rvtravel

Week 2 and 3 of 52 weekends to remember….,

I am going to combine weeks 2 and 3 of the weekends to remember.  Week 2 took us to Weedon Island. Which is a preserve of 1390 acres in St. Pete, Florida. Established in 1972 it is mostly an estuarine preserve composed of upland an aquatic areas. We meanandered through the mangrove forests, pine flatwoods in hunt for the much wildlife that abounds.  There is evidence of the early settlers that inhabited the land for thousands of years.  All of this can be seen in the nature center where guests can learn about the natural, geological and local history.    There is 4.7 miles of nature trails and 2 miles of it is on boardwalks.  After doing the nature center we  choose to do the boardwalk hike as it was hot for a January afternoon.  We hiked to the 45 foot tall observation tower where we were afforded a 360 degree view of Tampa Bay including the downtown’s of Tampa and St. Pete.  Most of my previous times spent in this park I was on a bike.  We would ride to the boat launch and leave almost as quickly as we would get there as the gnats were horrible.  I carried bug spray with us, however it was not needed. Kayaks can be rented or you can bring your own. It truly is a beautiful place right in our own backyard.  If we have time within the next 52 weeks we will return.

Week 3 found us boondocking at Potts Preserve.  Potts Preserve is part of SWFWMD located at 2988 North Hooty Point  in Inverness, Florida.  It is free camping, Just need to make reservations with SWFWMD. There are two sides the equestrian and the primitive. We stayed at the primitive side. There is also a backcountry which I believe you need a permit for as well.

We had hiked there previously  but this time we brought the camper. I have always wished to wake up and have a trail right outside my door, well this was the place.  The Florida Trail was about 50 feet away from our camper. It is situated on the Withlacoochee River.  It has about 6 campsites with plenty of room for more sites.  5 of the sites have river access.  After making reservations we received a gate code.  While the area is open for hiking the hikers must hike in from the gate about a mile back.  When we arrived there was a huge group of tent campers there sucking up 3 of the waterfront sites and one lonely guy took the site next to him, I bet he would have wished he had taken our site as it was quieter than he had as we had trees as a barrier to block their use of their open frame generator (which we never figured out what they were running on the generator) and their drum playing into the night after they turned the generator off. They solo camper left the next day and the “noisy” campers left on Sunday giving us the rest of the day and Monday to enjoy a beautiful day of peace and quiet.

The preserve is 8500 acres with 9 miles of multi use trails and part of the Florida Trail and Great Bird Watching has 22 miles of open hiking.

Cell service, Verizon and AT&T hardly existed unless you went to stand next to a “stick” (it’s a tree, I think but for now it’s just a stick) in the middle of the field. We named it the phone stick.

We hiked a little and I would say that was the best part of the weekend.

Attached are photos from weeks 2 and 3. I need help deciding which I should keep as my “favorite” for week 3. Please help me. Let me know what’s your favorite and if you are the 10th person to like and comment in this blog post I will send you a matted 5/7 of the print of your choice.

From Weedon Island

From Potts Preserve